Middle East Peace Initiative, Jerusalem, 15th – 20th March 2006


Just before our visit a crisis emerged in Jericho. Despite being the very people being sought as hostages Ambassadors for Peace showed their courage and came to Jerusalem and continued with their tour.


Dr. Yang, chairman of IIFWP USA, explained that he had been involved in the release of the Korean hostage yesterday. The Korean Government had contacted our organization that we would use our friendships and influence to release the KBS reporter. The Korean people were anxious about this famous reporter because a Korean reporter was beheaded in Iraq. Dr. Yang, Rev. Jenkins and Antonio Betancourt worked to meet and call their contacts within the Palestinian Authority to work for his release. KBS was so grateful for their work when the release was announced.



Despite warnings of danger for foreigners in the Old City the march passed by successfully. The relations with Arab-Israelis were warm and friendly. The ceremony in Yad Vashem was powerful and moving. Many Ambassadors for Peace have been moved by the experience here. The level of sharing and conversations has been very profound.

At the Christmas hotel in East Jerusalem we had a lunch gathering graced by the recently-appointed Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jerusalem. There were a number of speeches including an explanation of the importance of the family given by Rev. Michael Jenkins. Archbishop Stallings perceiving a dozing post lunch audience gave a hilarious account of how family life should not develop before expanding on the biblical ideal.

Following this there was a session in the King Solomon Hotel that examined the current prospects for peace as perceived by Israelis and Palestinians and others.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer, an international relations specialist with GLORIA research institute, expounded on the roots of the current political situation and gave a pessimistic view of the prospects for peace from an Israeli perspective. He saw the rise of Palestinian nationalism on levels similar to prior to Oslo. He saw the rise of Hamas as the political expression of an unwillingness to accept that there are two peoples here and that a two state solution is not the goal.

He saw the Oslo agreement as a secret negotiation in the context of international optimism. It was a process born out of the dispute. We cannot negotiate now but we will start a process that will ensure sufficient progress towards a solution. He said, ‘The Camp David showed that the parties were as far apart as they were in the beginning.’

He believes that, ‘On the Palestinian side the nationalism prior to Oslo is returning. The current largely Hamas Government denies the Israeli state. It is the political expression of an unwillingness to accept that there are two peoples here and that a two state solution is not the goal.’

On the other hand Mr. Kamal Nawal, an American Palestinian who is the President of the Free Muslim Coalition and has represented the US at the Organisation for the Security and Cooperation in Europe, took a more idealist view. He felt that maybe the failure of past peace efforts between Israel and Palestine were not the fault of the nations involved but the scale of the problem itself. ‘The land is so small and the divided between too many people,’ he said. ‘The problem is that you are asking people to divide something that they are so emotionally attached to. The two state solution will never work.’

He proposed a federation with the greatest power to be on the local level. This would avoid the demographic problem that scares Israel regarding a one nation solution. If there was a ‘United States of Israel and Palestine’ with each state providing 50% of the Knesset Members the two peoples would have to work together to be able to function.

The discussion between these two men of a younger generation than the current politicians in power in the region inspired a number of delegates.

Mr. Walid Sadik shared how he was stuck in his early life to dislike Israel. His early opinions were more extreme. He came to accept the existence of the state of Israel through the knowledge and friendship of many Israelis. He concluded that without educating people generally about peace and without involving peace-minded religious leaders there will never be peace.

Dr. Rony Smolar was a correspondent in the Middle East for the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation for twenty years he commented that he had visited most of the nations in the area. It is a small area and people have to cope with each other. Dialogue is necessary and it is IIFWP’s  job is to make the platform upon which they can talk.

To give a wider perspective of the conflict Rev. Darryl Gray, who has experience in Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Montreal, Canada, stated ‘It is not patronising for foreigner to come here to assist in the search for peace. This is not just a local conflict but it affects the whole world.

It affects us right in Canada. We love this land as much as you love this land because it is the root of our faith.’

A Canadian Palestinian said, ‘This is my first time back to my country. Palestinians are caught between a rock and a hard place. Jonathan I love you but we have to work it out.’ 

(Robin Marsch)